“The best thing for being sad…is to learn something. That’s the only thing that never fails. …Learning is the only thing for you. Look at what a lot of things there are to learn.” Merlin in The Once and Future King.
I woke up this morning with the realization that my life begins most mornings with looking at a screen filled with images which could have been taken from the pages of Dante’s Inferno–Madness. Disorder. Cruelty. Chaos. Meanness of Spirit. Incivility. No Manners. Bad Manners. An Almost Total Lack of Courtesy Toward Each Other. And emails which are often just print versions of the same with ads from companies/people I frequently have not a clue as to who they are or why they want my money. As I awakened I kept thinking of the one word to describe what was missing from my life: pleasure. I thought of music, culture, literature, learning, history, beauty (in memory of Sir Roger Scruton, RIP, the great philosopher and advocate for more beauty in everyday life), museums, art galleries, antique shops (remembering strolls along Magazine Street, New Orleans), so many lovely and valuable things almost totally missing from this world of venality we live in today. I want more of those things in my life and fewer of the venal, cruel, ugly things. And I shall have them. I say with genuine hope and aspiration on this crisp, bright, sparkling clear morning which The Lord has given us and will endeavor with all my might and will to rejoice and be glad in it! The more I think about it, the more I am convinced that Our Lord could never have wanted us to live in a world so nearly devoid of pleasure and courtesy and niceness and consideration for one’s fellow man as we see all around us today.
All of which, as our Nation stands poised to watch the beginning of what seems like the 10th or 15th Impeachment of President Trump, as dreary, venal, vitriolic, mean spirited an exercise as may be imagined, brings me to my prescribed therapy for the darkness with which we are shrouded and apparently will be for another couple of years. Thus, I turn to my prescription for some of the best therapy I have discovered, in the hope you may find it to be of benefit, as well. It is the therapy of learning new things, as prescribed by no less a personage than Merlin himself.
While is know there are any number of online courses available, not to mention videos of talks on many sites such as You Tube (and I would be most interested in hearing of some of your favorites so I can check them out), I cannot recommend too highly the many well produced offerings of Hillsdale College, taught by outstanding faculty of the college and covering any number of fascinating areas of study. They are free of charge, although the consumer is offered the opportunity to donate to the College, which accepts not one single dime of Federal funds, freeing it up to teach such subjects as the classics, American history, inclusion of portions of the Bible in its course on Great Books 101, Ancient to Medieval, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, etc. I note, in explaining why I am so “hooked” on the courses– in addition to my love for Hillsdale College and all it stands for– I have now completed courses on Shakespeare, American History (based on the recent textbook, “The Great American Story, A Land of Hope”, and taught by its author, Dr. Wilfred McClay), Great Books 101, Ancient to Medieval (including The Iliad, The Odyssey, The Aneid, The Book of Job, Dante’s Inferno) taught by members of the English Department at the College. I have just started Western Heritage: From Genesis to John Locke and next up for me will be The Second World Wars, taught by the eminent military historian, Victor Davis Hanson.
They are accessible at online.hillsdale.edu and here is just a brief sampling of the wonderful smorgasbord of learning on offer: Introduction to Aristotle’s Ethics: How to Live a Good Life (material we could all benefit from in these days of “the dark winter”), Introduction to the Constitution, American Heritage From Colonial Settlement to the Current Day, Athens and Sparta, Winston Churchill and Statesmanship, An Introduction to C.S. Lewis: Writings and Significance and a number of others.
As I reviewed the Hillsdale site to set forth the short illustrative list above, I realized how many adventures in learning I have ahead of me and it is my genuine hope that I may have piqued your interest in these great courses as well. As I am well into Dante’s Inferno as a result of the superb lecture on that work I just attended taught by Professor Stephen Smith , I will close by noting that while I am fairly certain getting involved in these courses will almost certainly lift you out of the horrible morass of The Inferno and may even get you up on Mount Purgatorio, whether you complete your journey all the way up to Paradiso is entirely up to you!